Answers FAQ

Happiness FAQs

Reviewed by Roxanne Dryden-Edwards, MD

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Q:Negative emotions are more powerful than positive emotions. True or False?

A:False. For quite some time, research has indicated that negative emotions are more powerful than positive ones, evidenced in a study that revealed that people don't have equal reactions to winning $3, versus losing $3. Still, while negative emotions might edge out positive emotions in the moment positive emotions appear to win out over time because they let you build on what you have.

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Q:Which pair of chemicals is NOT used by the body to feel good?

A:Cortisol and prolactin. In terms of happiness, mood elevation is associated with a release of serotonin, endorphins - the body's natural opiates - and oxytocin, also known as the “love/comfort/compassion" hormone. As for tryptophan, the body can't make it, so diet must supply this chemical, which is found poultry, meat, cheese, yogurt, fish, and eggs.

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Q:From a 2010 study of happiness, which country ranks #1 in life satisfaction?

A:Denmark. From an in-depth money, happiness, and satisfaction study done in 2010, Denmark ranks #1 in life satisfaction, seventh on positive feelings, and fifth in income. Comparatively, the United States ranks #1 in income, but ranked 16th in life satisfaction, and 26th on positive feelings.

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Q:In general happy people do NOT have what?

A:In general, happier people do not necessarily have higher incomes or higher intellect than most. There is no evidence to show that money is directly related to happiness or intellect. Studies have found that happier people generally: express gratitude on a regular basis; practice being optimistic; engage in frequent acts of kindness; savor joyful events, and practice forgiveness.

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Q:People are hardwired to be either naturally happy or not. True or False?

A:False. It was long believed that most people are hardwired to be either naturally happy or not, regardless of life events. But this view has changed in recent years as more becomes known about the science of happiness.

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Q:Where do the happiest people in the United States live?

A:The happiest people in the U.S. live in the Southern region. There may be something to be said for southern hospitality and sunshine. A new study shows that Southern states are the happiest while Eastern states like New York are at the bottom of the list.

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Q:You are more likely to be unhappy if you live in California. True or False?

A:True. Out of 51 slots, California ranks #46 – bottom of the list – on the happiness scale. Surprisingly, New York and California do badly in the happiness ranking. From researcher Andrew Oswald of the University of Warwick in Coventry, England, “Many people think these states would be marvelous places to live, but the problem is that if too many individuals think that way, they move into those states, and the resulting congestion and house prices make it a non-fulfilling prophecy.” So, where is the number one place brimming with happiness, you ask? Louisiana.

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Q:At what age are people happiest?

A:50+. It's a fact: People are happier, less stressed, and feel better about themselves after age 50! A recent survey of more than 340,000 people showed overall feelings of well-being improve as people pass middle age. Researchers report negative emotions such as stress and anger decline after the early 20s, and people over 50 worry less than younger folks. The authors say it may be as simple as this: With age comes increased wisdom and emotional intelligence.

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Q:Money makes people happier than sex. True or False?

A:Sex. Good news for folks whose bedrooms have more activity than their bank accounts: Research shows that sex is better for your happiness than money. Overall, the happiest folks are those getting the most sex -- married people, who report 30% more between-the-sheets action than single folks.

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Q:What is the mesolimbic pathway?

A:The part of the brain that is associated with feelings of joy. A part of the brain called the mesolimbic pathway is the brain's reward center, which is associated with feelings of joy.

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Q:Which method is used to help people gain physical and emotional healing and wellness?

A:Music therapy. Music therapy, the use of music to gain physical and emotional healing and wellness, is a healthy way to express oneself. The rhythm and tone of music can excite you or relax you. Music therapy can help reduce your heart rate and blood pressure and increase your ability to think, learn, reason, and remember.

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Q:Suppression of sadness is one of the keys to long-term happiness. True or False?

A:False. Having a positive outlook doesn't mean you never allow yourself to feel sadness. “Happiness is not the absence of sadness,” says David Spiegel, MD, medical director of the Center for Integrative Medicine at Stanford University School of Medicine. It is not a stiff upper lip or the pop psychology mantra, intoning “always stay upbeat” in the face of cancer. “Phony happiness is not good.” By suppressing sadness, you suppress other, more positive emotions, as well, he says, so people who try to suppress emotions actually become more anxious and depressed.

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Q:Gratitude improves one’s own sense of happiness. True or False?

A:Gratitude. Sure, pleasure is great and you need plenty of it, though there is more to happiness than racking up pleasurable experiences. Psychologists studying the effects of positive emotions say gratitude can improve our sense of happiness if we turn it into a conscious and regular practice. Feeling gratitude, they say, is something you do (such as expressing gratitude or keeping a gratitude journal) versus something you wait for!

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Q:“Hedonophobia,” “hedonism,” and “hedonist” are terms rooted in the Greek word that means what?

A:Pleasure. Hedonophobia, hedonism and hedonist are all words derived from the Greek word "hedone," which means pleasure or delight. "Hedonism" is a philosophy that emphasizes pleasure as the main aim of life, and a "hedonist" is a pleasure-seeker.

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Q:What do laughter and comedy do for the human body?

A:Boosts blood flow and immunity. Some studies have shown that the ability to use humor may raise the level of infection-fighting antibodies in the body and boost the levels of immune cells. Other research at the University of Maryland studied the effects on blood vessels when people were shown either comedies or dramas. After the screening, the blood vessels of the group who watched the comedy behaved normally -- expanding and contracting easily. But the blood vessels in people who watched the drama tended to tense up, restricting blood flow.

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